Students at Southern Utah University are so much more than what they show on the surface. Many have hobbies, dreams and ideas that their classmates, professors and even family don’t know about. The way they outwardly present their lives can also conceal difficulties that they battle unnoticeably.
Seemingly average freshman Dillan Bryan is one of these students. His path to success appears clear and direct: he intends to study geology to prepare him for his future career as a professor of mineralogy. However, Bryan’s life is far more complicated than just studying rocks. He jokes that he lives a double life because he likes to spend his free time exploring his other interest: poetry.
Bryan first discovered his love for the art form in high school. As a young student, he struggled with his writing endeavors before finding solace in the simplicity of poetry thanks to an inspirational English teacher.
“At first, I felt I was incapable as a writer. I went for poems because they were brief, and I knew I would be able to finish,” Bryan said. “I used it as an emotional release. It allowed me to express my feelings when I was in a depressive or angry mood.”
Using poetry to purge his emotions became a powerful healing process that he turned to on a regular basis. Bryan used writing to cope with loneliness, anxiety and depression.
“Realizing I was dealing with intense emotions that often left me feeling completely and totally alone, the only thing I had to resort to was myself,” Bryan said. “I read a quote once that went along the lines of ‘Write the words you need to read.’ So I did. I figuratively bled out on those pages and learned about myself. Writing allowed me to leave the hard feelings on paper instead of in my mind.”
Bryan adamantly encourages those struggling with managing their emotions to find a coping mechanism that works for them individually. Any personal activity that someone can immerse themselves in, such as exercise or music, can be a powerful way of calming the soul.
Bryan intends to minor in English with an emphasis in creative writing so that he still gets experience in both of the fields he’s passionate about.
While Bryan’s two worlds seem disconnected, he actually believes that his writing and academic pursuit of geology interact very closely. According to Bryan, his love for both geology and writing are built on the foundation of a will to understand the world.
“Most of the time, my brain thinks in poetry, but the feeling has to be strong enough for full phrases to form,” Bryan said. “When I am learning about geology or other scientific topics, I find connections in the way the world works and the way I process the emotions I experience. The two collide, and I learn about the world we live in, the people around me and myself.”
Learning hasn’t always been easy for Bryan. Growing up homeschooled, he relied heavily on educating himself on difficult topics. This contributed in part to his feelings of loneliness but also helped him to develop independence and intrinsic motivation. This drive, combined with the encouragement of his English teacher, pushed Bryan to apply for SUU despite having very little education in a public setting.
When he transitioned to university, Bryan promised himself to start focusing on constructive thoughts that would lift him up. He was intimidated and nervous at first, but the change of scenery helped him to distance himself from the feelings of his past and grow both as a person and a writer. He noticed a positive shift in his poems as he quickly adapted to his new life and fell in love with the college community.
In addition to Bryan’s studies, he is also an honors student, an intramural volleyball player and the secretary of the Geo Club. These keep him busy, but Bryan still manages to set time aside for writing. He likes to journal regularly before going to bed to clear his mind and provide ideas for future poems.
Bryan has a goal to publish at least one refined body of writing in his lifetime, whether that be a short story, novel or collection of poems. He hasn’t received an opportunity to publish a large work yet, but in an effort to get on the path, Bryan has submitted five poems for consideration in the 2023 edition of Kolob Canyon Review as an attempt to share his work with the SUU community.
“I want people to see my poetry and understand that, even though certain obstacles may seem insurmountable, there’s always a way to overcome it or find a new trail to follow. I never intended to write, but here I am today, sharing how writing could have quite possibly saved my life,” Bryan said. “I want to encourage my community to always be open to the possibility of positive change in cases that seem impossible.”
Story by: Kale Nelson
Photos courtesy of Dillan Bryan
This article was originally published in the December 2022 edition of the University Journal. Pick up a free copy at any of the stands on the SUU campus.